Black Sheep, Rising

Black Sheep, Rising


Poetry - General
150 Pages
Reviewed on 02/09/2017
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Black Sheep, Rising is a non-fiction memoir in prose and verse written by C. Streetlights. What exactly is a black sheep and how did the term ever come to have the connotation it bears of describing the outcast, the misfit, the left-out-of-it? Streetlights examines the state of black-sheep-ness in this collection of essays and poems that comprise her memoir. Her early life, marred by the constant warring of her parents and her exclusions from the escapes enjoyed by her elder siblings, still shines quite brightly in places, especially those memories of her grandfather, who conspired in her continuing questions, her love of the word,'why', responding in glee, with his own favorite, 'why not?' She brings to life his "mischievous eyes/white mustache/and experiments to conduct." "The science teacher in him/loved teaching The grandfather in him/loved inspiring/Together we pulled from the same vine."

Streetlights bares the shame of being cast out from the group as a young child for internal counting and being sent to put her head on the desk, away from story time and the pictures that brought it life, and how that trauma would darken all subsequent days spent in that class; likewise she mourns the journal of her fourth grade fantasies, found by her strict and angry mother; each page's secrets revealed, trampled upon and destroyed; a journal she would never write in again.

I think, however, that my favorite memory shared by this poet is that of her fierce and fearsome ballet instructor, Athena and her Dance Palace. A woman who was larger than life, and whose 8x10 photographs from her professional heydays inspired and made her fall in love with the eyes that "smiled beguilingly at me from those photographs and convinced me every week: this was where I needed to be." Heroes are found in the oddest of places, even in tiny strip malls and boxy business parks, and Athena, with her deep husky smoker's voice and rich laughter had easily achieved that heroic status and given a wary child a place to belong.

Streetlights' poetry is sparse, filled with images as all nature conspires with her being, and wonder fills all. In Meteor, form follows function as a star hanging as if by a thread suddenly falls, her words and the shape of the poem echoing that sense of aloneness and falling. In Magnolia, she rediscovers the sheltering warmth and love to be found in the stretched-out branches of a magnolia tree, the way "the leaves shushed the world around them and curved in a way that reminded me of gentle smiles," the warmth of that massive trunk holding a silence, as the world became quieted under that tree: "I couldn't hear the tension in my home or feel the yelling between my parents...I could be lost for as many moments as I could get away with. My personal Eden only has magnolia trees."

C. Streetlights’ memoir in prose and verse, Black Sheep, Rising, is a celebratory act of creation that resonated most strongly with me. I was awed by the fierce and fearless way this poet shares her life, her vision and her world with her readers and found myself captivated by the images she made appear so vividly therein. Black Sheep, Rising is most highly recommended.

Faridah Nassozi

Black Sheep, Rising by C. Streetlights is a deeply gripping memoir in which the author shares stories from her early years growing up in an environment where she never truly felt happy. With a mixture of prose and poems, C. Streetlights narrates stories from her childhood and the wounds the gloomy memories left in her life. This is the story of the little girl who cried endless silent tears, the girl struggling to find her footing in the world that was never there for her, and the woman she grew up to become.

C. Streetlights blew me away with her ability to deliver raw emotions through her words, connect with readers, and completely captivate minds. I found myself relating to so many of the experiences she shared, and reading her stories opened up some old wounds, but more importantly, she helped me realize that I too can still heal. C. Streetlights has a remarkable gift for sharing her emotions and drawing you into her world, and the sorrow of the little girl in her memories will tug at your heartstrings. But even with all the sorrow in her childhood memories, an apparent serenity can be felt in the voice of the woman now narrating those memories.

This is a must-read for all parents and guardians of whatever kind, and all authority figures, so we know to do better for every child. From the silent tears of a little girl, we can all learn so much, enabling us to do better for the little girls and boys in our lives so that their little souls can thrive in a happy and loving environment. There is a lesson in here for every reader. If you are going through or have been through the kind of childhood that C. Streetlights endured, then you know that you are not alone. If you have been lucky enough to be given a better childhood, then you will learn to recognize the silent tears of others and to do better for them. Black Sheep, Rising is a must-read for all. Thank you, C. Streetlights, for one of the most profound memoirs I have ever read.

Melissa Tanaka

Black Sheep, Rising is a beautiful collection of poetry by C. Streetlights that aims to encourage all the outsiders, outcasts, and outliers to recognize their self worth and take their place in the world. Streetlights begins the collection by deconstructing the idea of black sheep, pointing out that the Bible notes they were originally proof of the shepherd Jacob’s integrity and trustworthiness, rather than the colloquial reference of outcasts. It is in this same way that the author flourishes and rises above; after all, the strongest marker of one’s character is how you treat people who are different from you.

Black Sheep, Rising by C. Streetlights was made for the modern reader, with relatable struggles and issues that the reader will be able to recognize within themselves. Streetlights presents an inspiring mix of traditional stanza poems, as well as more stream of consciousness style prose that mirrors the style of other great poets such as Robert Bly or Allen Ginsberg. The strongest of her poems are those that are autobiographical, recounting a childhood filled with the struggle, and the subsequent inability, to fit in, to feel worthy and good enough.

While some of these poems are more lighthearted, others reach down inside you and pull you apart from the inside, which I find is one of the markers of a skillful poet and a truly good poem. Some stand-out poems include “The Gate Seeker in Vintage Yellow,” which looks at an old photograph of herself as a child and contemplates the ways in which she tried to escape, both physically and emotionally; “My Blood,” “Like Me,” which is the slow realization that abuse isn’t always physical but emotional as well, and “Magnolia.” Thank you for sharing your beautiful poetry and proving that all of us, even the black sheep, can continue to rise.